AFC East: Brady's leadership sets the tone for Patriots

Leaders come in all types. Some are quiet, some flamboyant, some spiritual, some charismatic. But in the NFL, they all have one thing in common: They are the guys their teammates follow in tough times and rally behind, the guys setting the tone at practice, the first ones there, the last ones to leave. They're the ones who have no fear of game deficits or the two-minute warning, the ones players turn to for direction in trying to achieve the ultimate team goal -- winning on Sundays. This week, NFL.com identifies the squad leaders of each team.

Quarterback, the natural leadership position, is where you'll find the majority of prominent team leaders in the AFC East.

The most obvious, of course, is Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. Finding any sort of true leader on the NFL's only winless team -- the 0-8 Buffalo Bills -- is a challenge, but they, too, respond as well as they can under the circumstances to their quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

AFC East Squad Leaders

Patriots: QB Tom Brady

Brady is the best and most recognizable player in an organization that has long promoted the team concept over individual stardom.

Given that structure and the fact New England has several young players on both sides of the ball, it could be argued that the Patriots don't need any other leader besides Bill Belichick. The fact is, almost no player will dare deviate from the figurative script that Belichick writes for the entire team. The ones that do, such as wide receiver Randy Moss, usually end up elsewhere.

But the fact the Patriots' fortunes continue to be so closely tied to Brady's performance -- something the franchise acknowledged by signing him to a massive contract extension just before the start of the season -- gives him the cachet to carry plenty of weight with his teammates. He has an impact whether he is reinforcing Belichick's message with the rest of the team or publicly calling out himself and everyone else in the locker room for those rare poor performances.

Last May, still feeling the sting of the Patriots' 33-14 playoff loss to Baltimore four months earlier, Brady offered one of the strongest examples of his leadership when he publicly admonished his teammates to listen more to Belichick.

Jets: RB LaDainian Tomlinson

Tomlinson's highly accomplished, 10-year career with the Chargers instantly gave him credibility when he signed with the Jets as a free agent. And he has added to it by performing at a high level through the first half of the season.

His teammates promptly became acquainted with his tremendous work ethic and dedication the first day he joined the Jets. Searching their training facility for L.T., fullback Tony Richardson eventually found him -- pumping iron in the weight room.

Tomlinson was a powerful voice of stability through the turbulent start to the Jets' season, especially after all of the gloom-and-doom talk prompted by the season-opening home loss to Baltimore. With the encouragement of coach Rex Ryan, Tomlinson occasionally will address the entire squad, including coaches. One of his more memorable speeches incorporated the contents of Vince Lombardi's "What It Takes to Be No. 1" speech, a copy of which hangs in LT's home.

Dolphins: LB Karlos Dansby

Generally, a newcomer tends to need a little bit of time before he can establish himself as a strong leader. However, during the era when NFL players change teams so frequently, transitions tend to happen faster out of necessity and there's a higher degree of immediate acceptance.

Dansby, a seven-year veteran whom the Dolphins signed as a free agent from the Arizona Cardinals, wasted no time establishing himself as a strong leader by example. He is respected throughout the organization for what he does on and off the field, and has earned that through being one of the Dolphins' most productive defensive players, working hard and preparing diligently.

In addition, he is one of the few players on the roster with Super Bowl experience. He generally doesn't say much, although when he does speak, his words tend to have a strong impact on the team.

Bills: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick

The Bills have no great leaders, which is one reason they haven't won a game. But Fitzpatrick comes as close as any player on the team to qualifying as one.

All of his offensive teammates have a great deal of faith in him, and the defense seems to at least feel a sense of obligation to pick up its play based on the hope that Fitzpatrick provides.

Despite making only six starts, he quickly assumed the team's leadership mantle after replacing Trent Edwards as the starter. All of Buffalo's players greatly respect Fitzpatrick's intelligence and knowledge of the game. Besides doing a superb job of communicating with the rest of the offense, he shows no favorites among his receivers. Fitzpatrick's offensive teammates also appreciate the great deal of extra time he will spend with them in preparing for a game.

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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